Mr. Speaker, after listening to the 12 point plan to save Canada by the member for Halifax, the leader of the NDP, it brought to mind the 12 point plan to save the countries of the world from future wars brought forward by the then president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, after the first world war. His 12 point plan would have been very good had his country been implicated in it. A lot of his 12 points were not realistic and some of them were rather self-evident.
However, let us deal with the motion that is before us. Number 9 of the NDP's 12 point plan states:
Celebrate immigration as a cornerstone of Canada, restoring respect for diversity and humanity in our immigration practices.
I have always believed we did that but that is beside the point.
I was a little surprised by the motion introduced by the hon. member. I am sure she has attended an oath-swearing ceremony for new Canadian citizens. She has certainly witnessed the extraordinary ties that develop between Canadians and these new citizens. An extensive network of volunteers is the basis for their integration. We do not need a 12 point plan to tell our fellow Canadians how they should behave. Canadians already know what is appropriate.
We have a long tradition of welcoming newcomers and helping them feel at home in their new country. Indeed, the Canadian way is so effective that a number of other countries are interested in knowing more about it. As concerns immigration, Canadians are an example for all to follow, although improvements are always possible.
The Canadian government celebrates immigration and diversity each time it holds an oath-swearing ceremony welcoming new Canadians into our great family. The hon. member could feel the joy that permeates this kind of ceremony and she could feel the deep emotion of witnessing new Canadians swearing their oath.
In October, each year, the Government of Canada celebrates immigration throughout the country during citizenship week. Campaigns like “Welcome Home” and “Canada—All Together” are full of warmth, authenticity, creativity, and so on. They promote respect, freedom, a sense of belonging, and the basic values of the Canadian society.
Nevertheless, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration would like to inquire, with all due respect, where the member opposite has been during the debate of the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The new act goes much further than to simply celebrate immigration as a cornerstone of Canada. The government has entrenched not just immigration but its sister notion, refugee protection, in legislation that will, in the matter of a few months, carry the full weight of law. I think those of us who were in committee were witnesses to that fact.
Let us look at some of the stated objectives of the act. Among them were: to enrich and strengthen the social and cultural fabric of Canadian society while respecting the federal, bilingual and multicultural character of the country; to see that families are reunited in Canada; to promote the successful integration of permanent residents into Canada; to support by means of consistent standards and prompt processing, which I believe will be improved with this new law, the attainment of immigration goals; to facilitate the entry of visitors, students and temporary workers; to work in co-operation with the provinces to secure better recognition of the foreign credentials of permanent residents and their more rapid integration; and finally, to promote international justice and security by fostering respect for human rights and by denying access to criminals.
These are only a few of the selected objectives of the act which have entrenched respect for diversity and humanity in our immigration practices. It is plain that there is no need to restore for what is not lost. In case the specific objectives of the act are not clear, let us review the key principles and values that define Canadian society, the same principles and values that defined the process of legislative review.
First, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the test for equality and freedom from discrimination. Is immigration a cornerstone of Canada? What better proof could a person ask for than the charter itself?
There are other principles that define Canada and the new act: respect for the multicultural character of Canada; commitments to human rights, including concordance with international human rights; and the integration of immigrants into Canadian society. On this point the government is committed to working in co-operation with provinces to secure better recognition of the foreign credentials of permanent residents. This will allow immigrants to settle and become established more readily.
Canadians do celebrate immigration. Let there be no doubt in anyone's mind that the intent of the government's immigration legislation is to continue the Canadian tradition of welcoming diversity, not just tolerance but harmony.
There have been ongoing consultations since the bill was introduced, one year ago. The standing committee has heard from more than 100 groups involved in immigration and refugee protection in Ottawa and across the country. The standing committee tabled a report, entitled “Refugee Protection and Border Security”, in the House in March 2000. The title of this report summarizes part of the issues studied by the Government of Canada.
We have seen the objectives and the principles that guided us in order to ensure that the process was open, public and transparent. This process led to the new legislation which is clearly based on the respect of diversity and humanity.
The new legislation simplifies the refugee determination process, but continues to protect the grounds for determining refugee status, refugee status under the Geneva convention: risk of torture, risk to their life or the risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
For years, the reunification of families has been a cornerstone of Canada's immigration policy. This is indeed good, as the family represents a key element in Canadian society, in fact, it constitutes the core of society. It is families that built Canada and that will continue to build Canada in the future. The reunification of families is an integral part of Canada's immigration policy.
Canadians have always thought that immigrants to Canada will settle more easily if they have the support of their extended family. That is why our immigration and refugee protection policies encourage and support the sponsorship of family members. This is a humanitarian gesture.
This bill expands the family class and makes it a fundamental element and one of the main classes of immigrants. For the first time, parents are mentioned in the definition of the family class outlined in the bill.
I believe the new act will facilitate family reunification. It simplifies application for landing spouses, partners and children who are already in Canada legally by creating an in Canada landing class so they do not have to first leave the country to apply. This is a good measure.
I will conclude by saying that our committee has other work but I am convinced that the new immigration law will facilitate the processes we need to readily improve our immigration policies.